Environment

  • Rising temperatures threaten Salt Lake City’s water supply

    In an example of the challenges water-strapped Western cities will face in a warming world, new research shows that every degree Fahrenheit of warming in the Salt Lake City region could mean a 1.8 to 6.5 percent drop in the annual flow of streams that provide water to the city. By midcentury, warming Western temperatures may mean that some of the creeks and streams that help slake Salt Lake City’s thirst will dry up several weeks earlier in the summer and fall.

  • 2012 sees slowdown in the increase in global CO2 emissions

    Actual global emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) reached a new record of 34.5 billion tons in 2012. Yet, the increase in global CO2 emissions in that year slowed down to 1.1 percent, which was less than half the average annual increase of 2.9 percent over the last decade. This is remarkable, as the global economy grew by 3.5 percent. This development signals a shift toward less fossil-fuel-intensive activities, more use of renewable energy, and increased energy saving. Increases in fossil-fuel consumption in 2012 were 2.2 percent for natural gas, 0.9 percent for oil products, and 0.6 percent for coal.

  • Improving earthquake early warning systems

    Earthquake early warning systems may provide the public with crucial seconds to prepare for severe shaking. For California, a new study suggests upgrading current technology and relocating some seismic stations would improve the warning time, particularly in areas poorly served by the existing network — south of San Francisco Bay Area to north Los Angeles and north of the San Francisco Bay Area.

  • Warming will disturb nutrients balance in drylands, affecting food production

    Drylands cover about 41 percent of Earth’s land surface and support more than 38 percent of the world’s population. As the world’s population grows, people will increasingly rely on marginal lands — particularly drylands — for production of food, wood and biofuels. Trouble is, an increase in aridity due to global warming will disturb the balance of nutrients in the soil and reduce productivity of the world’s drylands, a landmark study predicts. Increasing aridity is associated with a reduction in carbon and nitrogen in the soil and an increase in phosphorus.

  • Where should U.S. radioactive waste be buried?

    In the United States, about 70,000 metric tons of spent commercial nuclear fuel are located at more than seventy sites in thirty-five states. Shales and other clay-rich (argillaceous) rocks have never been seriously considered for holding America’s spent nuclear fuel, but it is different overseas. France, Switzerland, and Belgium are planning to put waste in tunnels mined out of shale formations, and Canada, Japan, and the United Kingdom are evaluating the idea.

  • Melting Arctic sea ice increases summer rainfall in northwest Europe

    A new study offers an explanation for the extraordinary run of wet summers experienced by Britain and northwest Europe between 2007 and 2012. The study found that loss of Arctic sea ice shifts the jet stream further south than normal resulting in increased rain during the summer in northwest Europe. The annual average extent of Arctic sea ice is currently declining at about half a million square kilometers per decade — equivalent to about twice the area of the United Kingdom.

  • Peru reopens UFO investigation office

    The Peruvian air force, saying it was responding to an “increased sightings of anomalous aerial phenomena” in the country’s skies,” has reopened its Departamento de Investigación de Fenómenos Aéreos Anómalos (DIFAA). The investigative office was established in 2001 but closed in 2008. DIFAA will bring together sociologists, archaeologists, astronomers, meteorologists, and air force personnel to analyze these anomalous events. Peru is not the only Latin American country showing renewed interest in UFOs.

  • New method to help coastal communities adapt to sea-level rise

    Future sea-level rise seems inevitable, although the rates and geographical patterns of change remain uncertain. Given the large and growing populations and economic activity in coastal zones, as well as the importance of coastal ecosystems, the potential impacts of sea-level change are far-reaching. Current methods to assess the potential impact of sea-level rise have varied significantly and hindered the development of useful scenarios and, in turn, suitable adaption policies and planning.

  • Burping for power: Tapping cow burps for natural gas

    Scientists in Argentina have developed a method to transform the gas created by cows’ digestive systems into fuel. The technique channels the digestive gases from bovine stomach cavities through a tube and into a tank, where the gases, called eruptos (burps) in Spanish, are processed to separate methane from other gases such as carbon dioxide.

  • $32 million NSF grants for improving prediction of, response to natural disasters

    With Sandy’s one-year anniversary – 29 October – next week, how do scientists better predict and respond to natural hazards such as hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, and wildfires? To find answers, the National Science Foundation (NSF) recently awarded twelve new research grants totaling $32 million. The awards will advance understanding of natural hazards and of technological hazards linked with natural phenomena, as scientists study ways of predicting and responding to hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, wildfires.

  • More than 500 million people could face increasing water scarcity

    Both freshwater availability for many millions of people and the stability of ecosystems such as the Siberian tundra or Indian grasslands are put at risk by climate change. Even if global warming is limited to 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels, 500 million people could be subject to increased water scarcity.

  • The only effective asteroid defense: early detection – and evacuation of impact area

    For the threat of meteor strikes large or small, early detection is key, and evacuation may be the only defense needed within the next 1,000 years, according to an asteroid impact expert. He says that the best investment in asteroid defense is not in weapons to deflect them, but in telescopes and surveys to find them.

  • Weatherizing U.S. homes to uniform standard to save $33 billion a year

    The U.S. residential sector — 113 million homes — uses about 23 percent of total U.S. source energy annually (source energy includes site energy, the energy consumed by buildings for heating and electricity, as well as the raw energy required to transmit, deliver and produce it). A new study finds that upgrading buildings’ airtightness to a uniform level could achieve as much as $33 billion in annual energy savings.

  • Better protective shield material for nuclear waste

    The integrity and survivability of a nuclear waste package is critically important in the transport of nuclear fuel and high-level waste. Research are working on developing an outer shield material for use in packaging which is resistant to corrosion, radiation, diffusion, and thermal cycling processes that affect fuel packages during long-term storage. The material will also need to be wear-tolerant and mechanically robust so that it can survive repeated handling and transportation.

  • Geologists: Sandy could happen again

    Sandy’s storm surge hit the coast at high tide, but storm and tidal conditions were not the only cause of the devastation. Seawaters off New York’s coast have risen sixteen inches since 1778, the year of New York City’s first major recorded storm. Geologists say that due to rising sea levels, smaller storms could produce significant flooding.